Easter is a Christian festival that marks the resurrection of Jesus and follows Lent, where devotees have typically given something up. The Christian observance of Easter traditionally begins at the stroke of midnight as the Pope delivers his Easter ‘Urbi et Orbi’ blessing from the papal balcony overlooking St. Peters Square in Rome.
Easter Sunday is the day of Christ’s resurrection from death to eternal life and the end of the Lenten season of fasting. The ever popular chocolate covered egg concept originated in France where the consumption of eggs, in any form, was forbidden during Lent. The chocolate covering represented the freedom to once again consume sugar and eggs.
Easter in the UK
The religious observance of Easter in the UK stems from the adoration of the Anglo-Saxon Goddess, Eostre (or sometimes spelt Eostra). From sunrise to sunset, services are held in churches bedecked both inside and out with fresh flowers, denoting the rebirth of spring and the death of winter. During Easter egg rolling events, care must be taken to crush broken eggs to avoid the theft of shell fragments by witches who will use them as boats! Another secular tradition is the execution of the Morris Dance to expel evil spirits from Planet Earth. A proper British Easter feast must include simnel cake where marzipan icing is placed between the layers of this sponge cake creation. The top of the simnel is adorned with 11 balls of marzipan in remembrance of the loyalty of 11 disciples to Christ following His betrayal by Judas Iscariot. Other favourites include a traditional roast lunch (lamb is usually the traditional meat of choice), followed by hot cross buns, which originated from the ancient Anglo-Saxons who baked small caked to celebrate the spring goddess, Eostre.
Easter in the USA
Many Easter egg rolling events take place around the world, although the one held annually at The White House in Washington DC has to be one the most high profile! There is also the traditional Easter Parade which is held in several cities, as well as various Mardi Gras festivals, particularly in New Orleans. Americans enjoy traditional Easter fare such as baked ham with fresh hot cross buns for dessert. Traditional church services are held at sunrise to welcome in Easter. American families paint Easter eggs and children appreciate the traditional Easter egg hunt. Throughout the USA, the Easter bunny and Easter tree are also popular and symbols are evident in the churches, shops and homes. Pretzels are also said to depict a person with arms folded in prayer.
Easter in Canada
The end of the Canadian Winter Carnival Festival is set to coincide with the beginning of the Easter celebration. While many Canadians hold religious services, major events predominately focus on egg decorating competitions and feasting. The 1975 Guinness Book of World Records lists Canada as the home of the world’s largest and most intricately decorated Easter egg. The traditional Canadian Easter menu often includes maple-flavoured baked beans, scones and a potato casserole, whose ingredients include tomatoes, spices, onions and cheese.
Easter in Germany
For German Christians, the celebration of Easter commences with religious services from sunset on Saturday evening until sunrise on Easter Sunday morning. Whether services are held indoors or outdoors, at the first glimmer of sunrise, the purple shroud draping the crucifix is removed. At the conclusion of the religious service, attendees fellowship together by eating individual cakes or slices of a larger lamb-shaped cake. During the week prior to Easter, the contents of all eggs used must be extracted from the shell by a blowing technique. The accomplishment of this feat necessitates a tiny hole being made in both ends of the egg to facilitate the extraction of the contents. The shells are then washed inside and out, dried, decorated with dye and hung on the branches of a tree. According to many sources, one man has been using 10,000 eggs to create an Easter egg tree outside of his home since 1965. A highlight of the German Easter is the Easter evening bonfire that is fed with discarded Christmas trees to celebrate the death of winter and the birth of spring. As an alternative to hot cross buns, European countries eat sweet cakes such as Czech babobka and Polish baba.
By Julie Bowman